This Post is about 80% hearsay, 15% speculation, and 5% eyewitness. Nonetheless it stands as a warning. I can't give a race report until I get this out of the way.
The sailing this past weekend was very interesting. 29 Boats started, one sank, one ran aground, and about 23 finished.
The start was interesting with good wind for about half an hour, reducing to inconsistent puff that would be the norm for the rest of the day. At one point there was no wind at all, and boats waited over an hour for the wind to fill back in. When the wind did fill in, the boats which had been becalmed so long felt a great need to get back into things and many choices were made that may be being regretted today.
A Pearson Flyer that was being single-handed in the spin fleet(gutsy) was having trouble with its chute. both spin sheets were lost, and the sail was flying out from the masthead. The skipper turned the boat downwind to try and recover the sail, but things didn't go as planned. by the time the skipper had recovered the sail, the boat had run aground.The skipper got on the radio and shared his predicament with the fleet, and then tried for the next half hour to get off the shoal, eventually freeing himself.
Whether this situation is related to the events that followed, I can't be sure. I do know that the Pearson was going downwind with main and jib when he ran aground.
The rest of the fleet was beam reaching - broad reaching in the shifty winds looking for "pockets of power" and struggling to keep going. When the winds filled in they were vehement, but just as quickly they would die off.
[Hearsay] An O'Day 32 was moving nicely under spinnaker in the region where the Pearson was when she hit bottom. The O'Day hit with such force that crew flew overboard.[/hearsay] The skipper called out a pan pan, and said he was taking on water and needed to recover crew.
[hearsay] Within 5 minutes, the O'Day was lost. [/hearsay]
She capsized, then turtled. When she was inverted in the water her keel was missing. It is believed that she hit a submerged object shearing the keel off. The only people who know for sure were not at the post race party. Everyone aboard the O'Day had on life jackets. They were recovered within minutes by a power-boater. 2 sail boats diverted from the race to lend assistance.
1. Coast Guard never replied to the pan pan.
2. The local police boats never came to the scene until half an hour later (not sure of exact time).
3. No one is sure what was hit, or even if anything was hit. It may have been a shoal shown on the charts, it may not have been. The keel may have simply fallen from the boat. There were no buoys in the area.
Blessings, preparation, what have you.
1. No lives were lost. Everyone aboard was wearing a life jacket.
2. The skipper was sober, he isn't much of a drinker (this is speculation but from his character he isn't the type to be drinking out there.)
3. The power-boater - who didn't have a VHF - recognized what was happening and immediately came to help. His boat had low freeboard and a swim platform making recovery easier than had it been a sailboat.
You can take your own lessons from this. When we got back to the marina at the end of the race, most of the fleet was checking their keel bolts. Many are looking into better mapping software for their GPS's. SWMBO is more convinced than ever that the boat is unsafe for the kids.
Iris was too far ahead of this boat to help, in fact we only got portions of the chatter on the VHF. I'll post my race report on my blog once I get everything processed in my head.